We used to think the fastest way to get the maximum benefits from marijuana plants was to smoke the leaves – burning the plant material unlocks the beneficial cannabinoids, which enter the bloodstream on a puff of pungent smoke and pass through the blood-brain barrier to affect change within our endocannabinoid system (that’s just a fancy way of saying that smoking gets you high). Cut to 2019 and the world of weed is a much different place, not to mention that we now come armed with the facts about how harmful inhaling smoke can be.
Weed is freshly legal across the border, and states across the nation are slowly following suit. With so many patients becoming aware of their rights to medicinal and recreational marijuana, education on safe use and practices is key, and smoking is one of those habits that should be as carefully scrutinized as reefer’s bad rep.
Are Smokers Jokers?
Thanks to the tireless efforts of advocates against nicotine, the world woke up to the dangers of smoking cigarettes, and Big Tobacco had to back off their aggressive campaigns to recruit new smokers. Not only is smoking one of the stinkiest habits, but it has also been cited as the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, with over 480,000 linked to the practice each year. That’s not all – there’s a laundry list of negative effects associated with lighting up regularly:. Smokers face an increased risk of
- coronary heart disease
- developing lung disease like COPD
- developing lung cancer (approx. 25 times more likely for both men and women)
- other types of cancer including bladder, cervix, esophagus, and larynx
That list doesn’t even touch on the dangers of smoking while pregnant, which include risk of preterm delivery, stillbirth, low birth rate, SIDS and others.
The 411 on Smoke
Science 101: the burning of tobacco causes poisonous chemicals to be released from the leaves, and these chemicals are carried by the smoke into your body, where they can enter the bloodstream either via your nose or your lungs. These chemicals have been proven to:
- Make your blood thicker (increasing chances of clot formation)
- Increase blood pressure and heart rate (meaning your heart must work harder than normal)
- Narrow your arteries (reducing the amount of oxygenated blood that can circulate to your organs)
These same toxins wreak havoc on the delicate tissue lining your lungs, increasing the risk of diseases like pneumonia, and COPD, a collection of lung diseases that cause patients to have difficulty breathing and a persistent cough, along with chest infections.
Marijuana IS NOT Tobacco…
We’re not here to look at the dangers of smoking cigarettes, however, but to explore the dangers of smoking marijuana, which is about as different from tobacco as you can get.
Guaranteed there are legions of cannabis fans out there who will argue that smoking weed is a lot safer than smoking a tobacco cigarette – after all, marijuana is a medicinal herb! And while they’re not wrong to point out the lack of gross additives like arsenic in joints, the fact remains: burning any kind of plant material can lead to short- and long-term damage to the body.
Unfortunately, there’s a wealth of evidence to support the fact that marijuana smoke contains about 50 percent more benxoprene and 75 percent more benzanthracene (carcinogenic combustion products) than the typical cigarette, and because pot smoke is usually held in the lungs for a longer period, there is four times more deposition of tar. These aren’t additives — these occur naturally any time you burn plant matter, yes, even totally pure plant matter.
Like tobacco, cannabis smoke is irritating to the sensitive lining of the throat and lungs (hence the characteristic cough when you take deep toke). It also contains chemicals similar to tobacco smoke and has been cursorily linked to cancer and lung disease.
Research has discerned that one of the most important actions of marijuana is reducing inflammation – it’s often employed topically in eczema cases to reduce redness and itchiness in tender skin to allow the healing process to begin, among other applications. And yet, it’s also been associated with large airway inflammation, increased airway resistance, and lung hyperinflation. Not to mention one study’s suggestion that marijuana’s immune-suppressing qualities might affect your susceptibility to lung and respiratory infections.
Can you take the heat?
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Fire is hot. Heat can cause blistering and eventually the development of scar tissue, and scar tissue can develop a cancer-causing mutation. Regularly inhaling high-temperature smoke through a joint can produce this kind of damage in the nose, mouth, and lungs, so, it’s easy to draw a line between inhaling and cancer of the esophagus.
Pot Paper – What’s the word about rolling papers?
Rolling papers are a ubiquitous addition to every true pot lovers’ arsenal, but don’t let their delicate appearance fool you into believing they are harmless. Often, that tissue-thin sheet you tuck your all-natural, homegrown marijuana into has been chemically bleached with chlorine to give it that gleaming white hue and to help it burn more leisurely. If the idea of inhaling chlorine doesn’t curl your nose hairs, we’ll just leave the fact that your favorite scented or flavored Rizla’s are dipped and doused in chemicals to replicate those tastes and aromas you find so appealing.
So Many Safer Ways to Partake
All is not lost. It’s believed that because marijuana is smoked “differently” than tobacco, the risks are less prevalent.
- Marijuana smokers may inhale more deeply, but hold smoke in their lungs for longer, producing longer effects, meaning patients are smoking less frequently.
- It’s been difficult for researchers to establish a direct link between marijuana smoke and lung cancer
- Cell cultures and animal studies suggest that the anti-tumor effects of THC and CBD may be strong enough to negate cancerous side effects with marijuana. More research is necessary to prove this for certain.
The dangers of smoking anything are a real bummer, but that doesn’t mean you have to swear off the sativas and indicas altogether. With research producing tons of positive evidence, and likely much more on the way, marijuana use is seeing an upsurge by patients with a wide range of medical conditions, like chronic pain, cancer, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, and more.
Thankfully, these patients (and people who just really love pot) can find plenty of ways to take advantage of marijuana’s healing benefits without rolling a joint! (If you consider yourself a purist, find yourself one of the dozen or so companies who has cashed in on the culture’s desire for cleaner, healthier paper options that are natural and chlorine free.)
In almost direct response to the dangers of smoking marijuana, vaporizing has been fast gaining in popularity. You can get big vapes for the house or small vapes that are compact and portable for on-the-go use.
Edibles are always a huge hit, and because the cannabinoids are processed in the liver, the effects may take longer to set in but will last longer than when smoked.
Cannabis-infused topicals are an excellent way to treat localized, external pain quickly – simply dab or rub THC-rich cream or salve onto into the skin and you’ll be feeling that cooling relief in no time. Topicals are popular for people with skin conditions like eczema, and conditions related to nerve damage, like fibromyalgia.
Ever considered consuming cannabis raw? Some believers (lead by Dr. William Courtney) are of the opinion that cannabis in its raw form is even more beneficial to the human body, packed with nutrients that can fuel your cells. The taste of raw weed leaves doesn’t exactly recommend this method, but the benefits might!
As always, the best way to consume cannabis is to cultivate your own from superior quality seeds, like the ones you’ll find on our website. Ready to start a world-class ganja garden? Peruse our selection and place an order today! Your mind and body will thank you.